The clear advantage for me of Llew’s continued late nights in the office is that I too remain at my desk working, whereas otherwise I psychologically and literally switch off as soon as I know he’s coming home. Last night found me still immersed in the MS when Llew walked in the door after 10 pm; I hadn’t moved except to take Nature’s calls and to make one of my own to the local Thai, because frankly I get tired of cooking dinner for two only to end up eating alone (exhibit A: Wednesday night, when I celebrated reaching Week 12 of the pregnancy by cooking a blue cheese sauce to the safe-to-eat boiling point, which then accompanied a rocket and walnut gnocchi, a dish that unfortunately did not reward reheating hours later when Llew got home). Last night I decided I’d invest that time in the MS instead; dining at the desk has been the dominant feature of this week.
This is phase two of the current redraft: it’s a line edit, but I’m simultaneously writing up a page-by-page breakdown. It’s a very clarifying document; I did it for the first time over a year ago, at the first Darkling trip to JB’s shack at Aireys Inlet, when it proved phenomenally useful, and it’s time to do it again. Summarising the action of each page in a sentence is an interesting task in itself, but what I like most about this exercise is the way it simplifies my ability to move around the text. Oddly disjunctive passages also leap out like a raging case of hives, so if something isn’t working or is in the wrong spot, it scabs and starts itching immediately it hits the summary. I don’t know why it first occurred to me to do this, and I’m not sure if anyone else does it, but it definitely works for me. As editing aids go, it’s a document that’s also very compatible with the needs of this particular MS, which contains a story within a story. It’s very helpful being able to see at a glance whether these two narratives exist in a state of harmony or hostility as far as the overall structure goes. Basically, I rate it.
I’m enjoying Her Fearful Symmetry, although I’ve had a nasty shock very early on: it contains an exact storyline match with an important back-story in my second MS (an incomplete draft currently frozen and gathering dust at just over 43,000 words). An awful barren world immediately opened up in which I sat wondering, gooseflesh rising, if now I would have no choice but to toss the lot and start from scratch…not an experience I’d recommend to anyone. It was really quite bleak. But I hope there won’t be any need for truly drastic changes… now I’m feeling a bit less feverish about it, I can see (well, I haven’t finished reading the novel yet, so talk to me in a few days…) that from that pivotal point onwards things proceed completely differently, but I’m still disconcerted by the parallel. It is not what any writer ever wants to see, particularly not when you’re the aspirant rather than the established author.
I suppose it must happen all the time…certainly it’s not unusual to read a scene and think, ‘Oh, that reminds me so much of such and such,’ or, ‘That’s just how it happened in X.’ There is, after all, a finite number of possible family relations, which logically suggests that there may also be a cap on what such characters might reasonably be expected to do to each other, so cross-textual intersections are unavoidable. Still, when I do return to MS # 2 – damned if I know when that will be – it’ll be armed with this new knowledge, I can’t unlearn it now, and it changes things. I don’t really see that I can keep things exactly as they were – why would I even want to, now I know someone else has already used it, and that someone else is Audrey Niffenegger? As the Brits say, bugger.